The Games of the Namco Museum Archives Vols. 1 & 2

Namco has just opened up a new wing in their museum, with two volumes of archives including a bunch of 8-bit NES and Famicom games!  These two new downloadable collections contain almost a dozen games each.  I’ll be your tour guide as we go through the games on these collections.  So let’s go!

Vol. 1

When Nintendo released the Famicom (our 8-bit NES) in Japan in 1983, Namco was one of the first third party publishers.  Most of their early games were ports of their arcade hits, and that’s what’s mostly on volume one, with a couple of surprises.  In Japan, Namco even made a separate division of their company to handle console games.  It was called “Namcot.”  On another note, the main bad guy in Pac-Man World is named Toc-Man.  You know what that spells backwards?

Galaxian

This game was a big deal in 1979.  Most games around this time were Space Invaders clones, and this was too, to some extent.  But it was the first game where the aliens would actually dive down and attack, and it was also the first full color video game that didn’t use cheats like screen overlays to simulate color.  The Galaxian flagship makes cameos in a bunch of other Namco games, including Pac-Man, and Galaxian spawned several sequels, including the more popular Galaga.  Galaxian never came to the US NES.  Probably because Galaxian wasn’t near as popular here, and by the time the NES was big in the US, Galaxian might’ve been considered a bit dated.  But the NES version is still pretty close to the arcade, not that it would be hard to do.

Pac-Man

For 1984, the Famicom version of Pac-Man was pretty darn good.  But do you know how long it took for Pac-Man to be released on the US NES?  It didn’t come out in the US until the early 1990s!  And by then it wasn’t so impressive.  Do you know why it took so long to come out here?  Well, one, Namco never had a US office until the early 90s with Namco Hometek.  Before then, other companies like Midway, Atari, Sunsoft, or Bandai would publish their games in the US.  Also, at one point during the NES’ lifespan, Namco had a falling out with Nintendo.  Why?  Well you know Nintendo had strict rules about how many games a company could release on their system per year.  They did this to prevent the oversaturation of games that ruined Atari’s consoles.  But Namco thought they should cut them some slack since they were one of the first third party developers.  Nintendo was stubborn about their policy, and even though each side had a good argument, Namco decided to make games for other consoles for a while, that’s why you saw more games on the Genesis and Turbo-Grafix 16 for a bit.  But by the end of the NES’s life, Namco and Nintendo had kind of made up a little, and Namco officially published Pac-Man in the US.  Although Atari’s Tengen company published it a little earlier!  It gets a little complicated!

Xevious

The NES version of Xevious actually came out in the US, but it was published by Bandai.  Which is ironic since Bandai and Namco are now merged!  I don’t know if Xevious was the first vertically scrolling shooter, but it was the one that perfected it.  I loved the Xevious arcade cabinet and was fascinated with the game as a kid.  One time I even took a chunk of my dad’s dot matrix printer paper and spread it out from the front door to the back door of the house.  Then on one side of the paper I drew a big Xevious map and on the other side I drew a Zaxxon map.  Then I got out my toy spaceships and played pretend Xevious and Zaxxon over the paper!  I got in a little bit of trouble for wasting so much paper, but my parents weren’t TOO mad since I kept quiet and found a way to entertain myself all day!  Anyway the NES version of Xevious is pretty good for what it is.

Mappy

It’s a shame that Mappy never caught on in the US because I really like the games.  You are a police mouse trying to take back stolen goods from a gang of cats, and their hideout is full of trampolines and doors you can use to get the better of the cats.  In Japanese, “Mappo” is a slang term for a police officer, so that’s why the mouse is named Mappy.  The Famicom version of Mappy is actually pretty close to the arcade, but it never came out on the US NES.

Dig Dug

I’m surprised this never came out on the US NES, as Dig Dug was pretty popular over here.  The game is pretty close to the arcade version, but to make it fit on a TV screen, they cut out a layer or two of dirt you can dig on the bottom.  You wouldn’t think this would make much difference, but it actually does.

The Tower of Druaga

This dungeon crawling maze RPG had really obtuse secrets.  It was a big hit in Japan, but never came out over here.  Because of the secretive nature of the way you get items, I imagine a home version of this game was a big deal over there.  Druaga had lots of sequels and spinoffs, as well as bunches of cameos in other games and even got an anime at one point.  I don’t like the game very much, but I like the history and lore behind it.

SkyKid

I really like this shooter, as it’s a cutesy take on WW1 biplanes with creative game mechanics, extra missions to increase your score in the form of bombing targets, and such catchy music.   The NES port of the arcade game is pretty well done, and it was even brought over to the US NES by SunSoft!

Dragon Buster

I don’t think the arcade game ever came out in the US, and I know the Famicom version didn’t.  I first played the arcade version on Namco Museum vol. 2.  Think of it like if Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link was an arcade game.  The NES version is pretty close to the arcade, but that has a lot to do with the fact that the arcade game wasn’t very graphically impressive for the time.  I didn’t get very far in the NES version because I couldn’t figure out how to jump off a vine onto a ledge without falling.  That’s one of the problems with this collection is the instructions aren’t very good.

Dragon Spirit: The New Legend

The arcade game is like Xevious except you’re a dragon and the game is really hard.  The NES version is like a sequel, but the stages are the same.  At least it’s not as hard as the arcade game!  It kind of reminds me of Legendary Wings, a NES game I did have.  This did come out in the US, published by Bandai.

Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti

Splatterhouse was a pretty controversial game for Namco because it was very gory for the time.  But late in the Famicom’s life cycle, they made an 8-bit version of it with silly chibi characters.  But it’s still really hard.  I couldn’t get past one part where you’re in a kitchen and knives fly at you and roasted chickens pop out of the oven to attack!  I’m a little surprised this game never came out on the US NES, as horror themed video games were pretty popular back then.

Pac-Man Championship Edition

Aww, yeah!  Namco made a new 8-bit ‘demake’ version of this!  Pac-Man: CE is one of my top favorite Pac-games and it’s the reason why I got an Xbox 360 in the first place!  I like Pac-Man: CE DX and the sequel, but the original is still my favorite.  The only things that keep this demake from being more believable is the music doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a NES, and the speed is much too fast for a NES to handle.  But then, I guess they wanted to keep the speedy gameplay intact.  It’s still a cool addition, and almost worth the price of the collection alone!

Vol. 2

The second volume has ten more Namco published NES and Famicom titles, but a few more here were brought to the US NES in some form or fashion.  Also one new 8-bit version of a never before ported game!

Galaga

This was brought to the US NES by Bandai.  It’s a pretty good conversion of the arcade game.  From what I can tell, Galaga was almost just as popular as Pac-Man in the arcades back in the day.  I still see it from time to time.

Battle City

In the arcade, this was called Tank Battalion and came out the same year as Pac-Man, which is pretty impressive.  It’s like Atari Combat mixed with the tank game from TRON.  You lose if you get hit by an enemy tank, or if the enemy destroys your base at the end of the maze.  I’m surprised this never came out on the US NES, as it’s pretty fun and you can design your own levels!

Pac-Land

Most of Namco’s arcade ports to NES turned out pretty good, but not this one!  Oh man, this one looks horrible.  I never was a big fan of Pac-Land, but I did like the cartoony graphics in the arcade.  Pretty impressive for 1984.  Plus it was a 2-D sidescrolling platformer that came out one year before Super Mario Bros.  Mario’s hit may not have been the first, but it certainly was the 2-D platformer that perfected and popularized the genre.  Sorry Pac-Man!  This one never left Japan.

Dig Dug 2

Surprisingly, this one came out in the US under Bandai!  I never knew until later that it was an arcade game, too.  We never got the arcade game.  Instead of being viewed from the side like the first game, you walk around top down viewed islands and try to drill cracks to sink parts of the island, and enemies, into the ocean.  On the DS there was a game called Dig Dug: Digging Strike that combined both gameplay styles from the original title and the sequel.  I thought it was pretty neat.

Super Xevious

There are new enemies and backgrounds to fly over, but otherwise it’s more of the same, just harder.  We never got this game in the US.  Xevious was super popular in Japan, though.  They even had book novels about it!

MappyLand

Aw yeah!  I rented this game so many times as a kid.  I wish now I would’ve just bought it.  It was brought to the US by Taxan of all places.  If anyone wants to buy me a copy of the NES MappyLand game for my birthday or Christmas, I’d love that.  Anyway, even though MappyLand was never an arcade game, it’s a better sequel than the Hopping Mappy Japan only arcade title.  MappyLand has colorful graphics, peppy music, tons of secrets, and the classic Mappy gameplay you know and love, just with a few twists.  Only problem is I KNOW there was a way to continue where you left off in the NES game, I just can’t figure out how to do it here.  One Mappy sequel we never got in the US was Mappy Kids.  It played like a competitive Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers.

Legacy of the Wizard

I actually had this game (might still have it).  I rented it once and thought it was cool, like a 2-D platforming Zelda game.  So I asked for it that Christmas and got it.  In the US, it was published by Broderbund.  But Namco published it in Japan, but they didn’t develop it.  The game was actually developed by Falcom, makers of Ys.  Legacy of the Wizard is actually part of the DragonSlayer series in Japan, and in a roundabout way, is also related to another NES game: Faxanadu.  Anyway, you control members of a family (including their pet monster) and explore mazes that remind me of Lode Runner for some reason.  The music is done by Yuzo Koshiro, too, so you know it’s good.

Rolling Thunder

Namco spy side scroller certainly has a lot of style, and inspired other games like Shinobi (although it could be the other way around).  The arcade game was hard enough, and the NES version feels even harder!  I think this was published in the US by Tengen.

Dragon Buster 2

This console only sequel to the Japan only arcade game takes out the 2-D sidescrolling in favor of a top down view, and you play as a bow and arrow wielding hero instead of a swordsman.  But somehow it still retains the feel of the first game.  I like that they tell you what items are in what dungeon types, but leave the rest up to you.  It’s a bit repetitive, but once you get the hang of things, it’s not bad.  Did you know there was a third Dragon Buster game on the PSOne?  It was called Dragon Valor and was like a 3-D beat ‘em up.  I kind of liked it.

Mendel Palace

Now this one’s interesting.  It was published in Japan by Namco, and I think in the US by Hudson although I had never seen or heard of it back then.  But the game was actually developed by Game Freak!  Yeah, the same company responsible for Pokemon!  It’s a single screen action game where you flip tiles to push enemies to the edge of the screen to dispatch them, and two players can play at the same time.  The only problem is the flicker is really bad and it makes it hard to see where the enemies are, which is important in this kind of game.  I think it would’ve been a better match on a handheld.

Gaplus

And the new game on this collection isn’t as impressive as 8-bit Pac-Man: CE, but it’s interesting.  It’s the sequel to Galaga, sometimes called Galaga 3 in the US.  I saw Galaga 3 in a few places, including a Pizza Inn near my house.  I always wondered what happened to Galaga 2, not knowing Galaxian was the first game in the series.  Anyway, this one’s a lot like Galaga except the enemies are WAY faster and harder, you can move up and down the screen as well as left and right, and you can get powers to suck up the aliens and get tons of firepower out of it, but it makes you an easier target, too.  Aside from the speed and lack of flicker, this seems like a believable 8-bit demake.

And those are all the games!  It’s a good couple of collections, although I think they should’ve put them both into one game.  I also would’ve liked to have seen a physical release.  In Japan, they did get a physical release of it on the Switch, but it has different games!  I would’ve loved to have played Wagyan Land on it!  I also don’t like that there’s a little bar on the bottom of the screen that blocks your view. I don’t know how to remove it.  Anyway, that’s all I have to say about the Namco Museum Archives vol. 1 and 2.  I wish there was a real life Namco Museum and that I could work there!  –Cary

One Response to “The Games of the Namco Museum Archives Vols. 1 & 2”

  1. I’ll be buying this mostly for the CE demake. CE DX is my favorite from that series, though. Gonna hold out for a bit hoping that we eventually get a physical release here.

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